Shawneta Jordan braved scattered thunderstorms to attend the annual Irving Family Fishing Day in hopes of catching her first fish. She did not want a repeat of last year’s event, where she watched her son Michael Williams Jordan catch fish after fish as she went home empty handed.
This year, Shawneta used the fishing pole her son won at last year’s event and with the help of city and event volunteers, reeled in a large catfish.
“It’s becoming addicting!” she said, minutes after her prized catch. Held on Saturday morning, June 3, at Northwest Park Recreation Center, the fishing outing offers families a chance to visit the city’s recreation facility and educate themselves on how to properly fish.
“It makes them knowledgeable,” Shawneta said. “The knowledge they gain from this they can’t get from an iPad or TV or computer.”
The event began over 20 years ago when the Northwest Park Recreation Center partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife, a state-wide organization that provides trout stocking across Texas.
“We hope people enjoy being outside and introducing the younger ones to the sport of fishing,” said Della Jones, Senior Rec Specialist at the center.
The event originally took place in February, but after years of struggling through cold weather, including a year where ice covered nearly the entire park, the rec center team made a decision to move the event to May and June to avoid the freezing temperatures.
One concern with moving the date closer to the summer was the effect the heat would have on both the participants as well as the fish. This year’s event was originally scheduled for Father’s Day weekend and was to have a father-son theme, but Magnolia Fisheries, the group that stocked the lake, advised Jones that temperatures would be too warm for the catfish. Even though catfish are nocturnal, the water temperature would rise to unsafe temperature levels and render the fish less active, so the decision was made to move the event to June 3.
Magnolia Fisheries stocked the lake a day before the event with 250 lbs. of channel catfish. Typically the event includes hot dogs, concessions, popcorn, and this year had planned to add a bounce house and snow cones, but due to the poor weather conditions, Jones and her staff of five cancelled the additional activities.
Jones has been working at Northwest Park Recreation Center for 17 years. This year will be her last organizing the Family Fishing Day, as next year she will be working at Lee Park. She will be replaced by Recreation Specialist Heather Rooney. Jones had a few words of advice for her young staff member.
“You never know what the weather’s going to be like, this is Texas,” Jones said. “We have to take things as they are. With this event, nothing ever goes according to plan.
“We always have to have patience when we’re planning an outdoor event, and that’s with anything within the city of Irving. You just have to have patience and make sure you have a backup plan.”
One group that has been helping the Northwest Park Recreation Center put on the annual event is the Irving Christian Anglers Bass Club. Over 40 years old, the club meets monthly for friendly fishing competitions among its members as well as to help at local fishing events. They have helped at the Irving Family Fishing Day for 25 years.
“I think it’s just getting the kids out of their iPhones or their computers and just sitting back and relaxing for a second and trying to do something different,” said club member Rick (Arrr) McCullough.
McCullough, once an avid Harley Davidson rider, joined the fishing club after he continued getting into wrecks.
“This is it,” McCullough said after his final wreck, where he went down on Belt Line Road at night and thought he was going to get run over. “I’m officially going into geyerserdome. I’m selling the motorcycle, and I’m buying a fishing boat.”
That night happened about five years ago and encouraged McCullough to join the Anglers. He thinks events like the family fishing outing encourage parents and kids to slow down and appreciate life.
“The world’s too fast-paced right now,” he said. “Just relax, and the old saying, smell the roses a little bit. If you end up smelling like fish, that’s even better.”